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As states continue to amend restrictions on marijuana, college students in the Northeast are considering how their relationship between recreational pot and campus life could change as well.

While Massachusetts and Vermont legalized marijuana in 2016 and 2018, respectively, on the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Boston University and University of Vermont campuses, possession and use are still prohibited.

Some students were excited to attend college in a legalized state, but the prohibition of marijuana on campuses is a deflating realization or at least an inconvenience for students who have chosen to hide their smoking habits from residence advisors and campus police.

Interviews with students at the University of Vermont and Boston University suggested that marijuana is socially acceptable on their campuses, expressing that the legalization of marijuana has little to no difference as to the number of students that use it on campus.

The University of Vermont campus.
The University of Vermont campus.

Gabe Martinez, 21, a junior at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, agrees that marijuana culture has not changed dramatically since dispensaries opened near campus. The price, however, has changed. 

“If you do go to a dispensary it’ll be a lot more expensive,” Martinez said. “An eighth is usually $50. It is expensive because of the taxes they put on weed.” 

Massachusetts policymakers originally levied a 12% excise tax on marijuana-related purchases. The state’s policymakers agreed to raise the maximum excise tax to 20% because they were concerned it was too low; at that time, the state’s marijuana excise tax was the lowest in the country. 

Most students interviewed said they pay $25 to $30 for an eighth of weed from friends or the underground market – one-eighth is equal to 3.54 grams, which weighs less than a nickel. After a 15% tax is added to a $50 eighth at dispensaries, consumers will pay around $58.00, more than double what they pay picking up from campus dealers.

A Syracuse student lights a marijuana cigarette in their apartment.
A Syracuse student smokes marijuana on a friend's porch.

As of November 2019, dispensaries have yet to open in Vermont or in Boston, but students said that they do not have any problem finding access to marijuana. Whether it be from a friend or a dealer, “so many people sell weed,” Payton Whalen, a junior at the University of Vermont, said.

But even when dispensaries begin to open in Vermont and Boston, students may continue getting their marijuana from a friend or an established dealer. “We have up to four or five people we can buy from. It seems like every block has its own dealer,” said Evan Espinosa, a 20-year-old junior at Boston University.

Martinez entertains the idea of buying marijuana from a dispensary because it’s stronger and he can choose strains that fit his tolerance and mood. However, he still purchases pot from local dealers because it is cheaper. “I am helping out my dealer,” Martinez said. “They have to make money, too.”

"If you do go to a dispensary it’ll be a lot more expensive. An eighth is usually $50. It is expensive because of the taxes they put on weed."
Gabe Martinez, UMass-Amherst junior

Studies on short-term effects of marijuana usage show that users experienced side-effects that impacted their ability to focus on their academics. One study showed “being under the influence of marijuana can impair short-term memory, attention, reaction time, and psychomotor performance.”

Thurman has noticed marijuana having an effect on other students as well, “I feel that there is a decent amount of people that neglect their responsibilities to get high,” she continued, “I have seen kids skip class to get high,” Thurman said.

“It one hundred percent is disruptive,” said Espinosa, who took a break from smoking mid-way through Fall 2019. “It’s hard to manage smoking and also the workload of the school year. I can’t do both personally.”